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Cal Cunningham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cal Cunningham
Cunningham in 2019
Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
January 1, 2001 – January 1, 2003
Preceded byJim Phillips Sr.
Succeeded byStan Bingham (Redistricting)
Personal details
James Calvin Cunningham III

(1973-08-06) August 6, 1973 (age 50)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Political partyDemocratic
EducationVanderbilt University
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA, JD)
London School of Economics (MSc)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service2002–present
Lieutenant Colonel
UnitUnited States Army Reserve
Battles/warsIraq War
War in Afghanistan
Bronze Star Medal

James Calvin "Cal" Cunningham III (born August 6, 1973) is an American lawyer, politician, and retired military officer. A member of the Democratic Party and a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve, he served one term as a North Carolina state senator from 2001 to 2003. Having previously run for United States Senate in a 2010 primary, Cunningham was the Democratic nominee[1] for the 2020 U.S. Senate election in North Carolina, narrowly losing to incumbent Republican Thom Tillis.[2]

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/1
  • Abbey Speaker Series: Conversation with Cal Cunningham and Senator Thom Tillis


Early life and education

Cunningham was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and grew up in Lexington, North Carolina. He attended Vanderbilt University before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in political science and philosophy.[3][4] In the summer of 1993, Cunningham attended American University and interned on Capitol Hill for a subcommittee chaired by Senator Carl Levin.[5]

Cunningham received a Master of Science in public policy and public administration from the London School of Economics and a Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina School of Law.[6]


U.S. Army Reserve

In 2002, Cunningham was commissioned in the Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General's Corps. He is a graduate of the Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, and the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course.[7]

From 2007 to 2008, Cunningham was mobilized as the senior trial counsel for the Multi-National Corps in Iraq.[8] He was lead counsel in the first court-martial since 1968 of a contractor under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.[9][10] In 2011, Cunningham was assigned to work with a special operations task force in Afghanistan.[11]

Cunningham as a State Senator

State Senate

In November 2000, Cunningham was elected to represent the 23rd Senate district of the North Carolina General Assembly, which included parts of Davidson, Rowan, and Iredell Counties.[12] At the time of his election, he was North Carolina’s youngest legislator.[13] After his election, a defeated opponent challenged Cunningham’s eligibility on the basis that he had moved back to the district a few days too late to meet the requirement of having lived there for a full year, but the courts rejected the challenge.[14] Cunningham declined to run for reelection after his district’s territory was split between three Republican-leaning districts.[8]

Post-State Senate career

Cunningham worked at the Wallace & Graham law firm from 2003 until 2004, when he joined Kilpatrick Townsend.[8][6]

Since 2003, Cunningham has served as an appointee of the Governor on the Board of Trustees of Davidson County Community College.[15] He also served as an appointee of the Governor on the North Carolina Banking Commission.[16] He is a former vice chair of the Governor's Crime Commission.[17][18]

In 2013, Cunningham joined the environmental services company WasteZero as vice president, government affairs, and general counsel. WasteZero helps support pay-as-you-throw waste reduction systems which municipalities in North Carolina and elsewhere have debated implementing.[19][20] Cunningham left WasteZero in March 2020, shortly after winning the Democratic nomination, but continues to work for the company as an independent contractor.[21][22]

U.S. Senate candidacies

2010 primary campaign

In 2010, Cunningham ran for the U.S. Senate seat held by Richard Burr.[23][24][25] Retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark endorsed Cunningham, saying that he would be "the first veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to serve in the U.S. Senate", as did the state's largest organization of teachers, the North Carolina Association of Educators.[26][27] He finished second in the primary, but since no candidate received 40% of the vote, he advanced to a runoff with the first-place finisher, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who ultimately won the nomination.[28]

2020 campaign

Cunningham originally declared his candidacy for lieutenant governor of North Carolina,[29][30] but he withdrew in June 2019 to run for the United States Senate seat held by Thom Tillis instead.[31] During the primary, a Republican-allied Super PAC spent $3 million on ads attacking Cunningham and supporting left-wing state Senator Erica Smith in order to "amplify fault lines in the Democratic party."[32][33][34] On March 3, 2020, Cunningham won the Democratic primary with 57% of the vote.[35]

Cunningham stated his support of the Affordable Care Act and called for the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina, as well as a public health insurance option.[36][37] He stated his opposition to the Green New Deal and his support for significant investment in green jobs and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.[32]

In July 2020, incumbent Republican Thom Tillis claimed Cunningham had been "silent" on the issue of defunding the police, saying, "I assume his silence is consent." Cunningham had published an op-ed a month earlier stating his opposition to defunding the police, instead advocating police reform, including policies that "counsel de-escalation, prohibit chokeholds, limit no-knock warrants, and specifically address the use of deadly force."[38][39]

Cunningham led Tillis in the polls throughout much of the campaign.[40]

On October 3, the New York Times wrote that the race had fallen into "utter mayhem" within a period of a few hours after Tillis tested positive for COVID-19 and Cunningham admitted to exchanging sexual text messages with a woman who was not his wife, damaging an image that leaned heavily on his character and military service. Days later, the woman stated that she had a consensual physical relationship with Cunningham in 2020.[41] The Army Reserve started an investigation into Cunningham.[42] The husband of the woman who stated that she had had an affair with Cunningham, himself an Army veteran, called on Cunningham to drop out of the Senate race.[43] Asked repeatedly whether he had had other extramarital affairs, Cunningham declined to answer.[44][45][46][47]

Following the disclosure of the texts and his response, Cunningham "assumed a position of complete radio silence, withdrawing from the campaign trail [save] for a last-minute appearance in Charlotte with the rapper Common".[48] In late October, Cunningham's polling lead eroded.[49]

Tillis defeated Cunningham, 48.7%-47%, on Election Day.[50] On November 10, 2020, a week after Election Day, Cunningham called Tillis to concede the race.[51]

Honors and awards

For his service in Iraq, Cunningham was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service as a lead investigator examining contractors.[52][53] In 2009, he received the General Douglas MacArthur Award for Leadership.[54][55]

Cunningham is a recipient of a Jaycees' Distinguished Service Award.[56]

In 2007, Cunningham was selected for a Marshall Memorial Fellowship.[57]

Personal life

Cunningham and his wife, Elizabeth, have two children.[58][59] As of September 2020, he was an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church.[60]

In October 2020, it was reported that Cunningham had exchanged sexually suggestive messages with a married woman who was not his wife. Cunningham confirmed the texts were authentic and apologized for his behavior.[59][58] The woman stated that she had a consensual physical relationship with Cunningham in 2020.[61][62] The Army Reserve started an investigation into Cunningham.[63]

Electoral history


  1. ^ "North Carolina U.S. Senate Primary Election Results". The New York Times. March 3, 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  2. ^ Snell, Kelsey; Walsh, Deirdre (November 10, 2020). "GOP Sen. Thom Tillis Wins Reelection In North Carolina After Democrat Concedes". Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  3. ^ "North Carolina manual [serial]". [Raleigh] : North Carolina Historical Commission. October 21, 1916 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ "Candidate Conversation - Cal Cunningham (D)".
  5. ^ Full text of "S. 885, to modify congressional restrictions on gifts : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on S. 885 ... July 19, 1993". U.S. Government Printing Office. 1993. ISBN 9780160415029. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Kilpatrick Stockton LLP: Cunningham III, J. Calvin". September 5, 2004. Archived from the original on September 5, 2004. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  7. ^ "Local lawyer gets medal for meritorious work in Iraq |". June 16, 2012. Archived from the original on June 16, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Ivey, Steve (March 3, 2008). "Cal Cunningham: Kilpatrick Stockton attorney goes from comforts of Triad to dangers of Iraq". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  9. ^ "Hearing begins in contractor stabbing case". Stars & Stripes. April 17, 2008.
  10. ^ Staff Report (December 1, 2009). "Former N.C. senator serves tour in Iraq". Salisbury Post.
  11. ^ "Cal Cunningham off to Afghanistan". News & Observer. September 28, 2012. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012.
  12. ^ "Cal Cunningham". Ballotpedia. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  13. ^ "April 2001 State Legislatures magazine: Captivating Legislative Trivia". National Conference of State Legislators. July 3, 2004. Archived from the original on July 3, 2004. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  14. ^ "Keadle vs. Cunningham — Courts uphold voters' choice". Salisbury Post. November 2, 1999. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  15. ^ "Davidson County Community College". May 29, 2006. Archived from the original on May 29, 2006. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  16. ^ "Current Banking Commission Members". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  17. ^ "Governor's Crime Commission » Commission Members". North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Archived from the original on September 24, 2019.
  18. ^ "MEDIA ADVISORY: Governor's Crime Commission Quarterly Meeting". North Carolina Department of Public Safety. December 5, 2017. Retrieved May 19, 2020. Policy Study Report Update GCC Vice Chairman Cal Cunningham
  19. ^ "'I need to hear his defense.' NC Senate candidate calls for witnesses at impeachment trial". The News & Observer. January 14, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  20. ^ Harrison, Steve (November 23, 2014). "Would new garbage system reduce waste?". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  21. ^ Morrill, Jim; Murphy, Brian (July 7, 2020). "Tillis blasts Cunningham over PPP loan to his former company. Cunningham pushes back". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  22. ^ Specht, Paul (July 17, 2020). "Fact check: Tillis says Cunningham criticized program that helped 'his company'". Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  23. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham makes it official". Archived from the original on February 16, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  24. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham's announcement speech". Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  25. ^ "Media Report December 4 - 10, 2009". Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. Retrieved September 30, 2020. Winston-Salem Journal, Lexington-Dispatch, and Triad Business Journal: December 8: Cal Cunningham announced that he will run for U.S. Senate in 2010.
  26. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham endorsed by retired Gen Wesley Clark". March 29, 2010. Archived from the original on April 1, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  27. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham, Lewis pick up endorsements". Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  28. ^ Catanese, David (June 23, 2010). "Marshall wins N.C. Senate nomination". Politico.Com. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  29. ^ "Cal Cunningham Preparing for 2020 Lieutenant Governor Bid". U.S. News. November 28, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  30. ^ "Lexington Native Cal Cunningham to Run for Lt Gov". The Dispatch. January 8, 2019. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  31. ^ "Cunningham: Voters led him to switch to US Senate campaign | Miami Herald". Miami Herald. June 18, 2019. Archived from the original on June 18, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  32. ^ a b Lavelle, Marianne (September 14, 2020). "Senate 2020: In Storm-Torn North Carolina, an Embattled Republican Tries a Climate-Friendly Image". InsideClimate News. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  33. ^ Evers-Hillstrom, Karl (February 21, 2020). "'Dark money' trail leads to GOP meddling in North Carolina Democratic primary". OpenSecrets.
  34. ^ Morril, Jim; Murphy, Brian (February 22, 2020). "'More successful than we could have imagined.' GOP group funds ads for Dem in NC race".
  35. ^ Panetta, Grace; Cachero, Paulina (March 3, 2020). "Cal Cunningham claims a victory in the North Carolina Senate Democratic primary". Business Insider. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  36. ^ "Election 2020: Cunningham, Tillis on Medicaid expansion". News & Observer. 2020.
  37. ^ "3 NC Democrats running for Senate, 3 different positions on Medicare for All". News & Observer. 2020.
  38. ^ Specht, Paul (August 19, 2020). "No, Cunningham has not been 'silent' on defunding police". PolitiFact.
  39. ^ Cunningham, Cal (June 11, 2020). "Priorities for Constructive Change in Policing". Medium.
  40. ^ "Thom Tillis claims victory, Cal Cunningham waiting on all votes to be counted". November 3, 2020.
  41. ^ Arkin, James (October 6, 2020). "Cal Cunningham under fire after more texts revealed". Politico. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  42. ^ Specht, Paul (October 6, 2020). "Army Reserve investigating Cunningham after woman confirms affair, more texts emerge". Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  43. ^ Copp, Tara; Murphy, Brian; Alexander, Ames (October 7, 2020). "After woman confirms affair, her husband calls on Cunningham to drop out of NC Senate race". News & Observer. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  44. ^ Kane, Paul (October 9, 2020). "Cunningham struggles to refocus N.C. Senate campaign after acknowledging extramarital relationship". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  45. ^ Leslie, Laura (October 9, 2020). "Asked four times whether there are more affairs not yet known, Cunningham declined to say yes or no". Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  46. ^ "Cal Cunningham dodges several questions during first news conference since sexting scandal". WSOC. October 9, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  47. ^ Greenwood, Max (October 9, 2020). "Cunningham dodges questions about text message scandal". TheHill. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  48. ^ Millard, Drew (December 11, 2020). "How the Safe Bet Lost in North Carolina" – via
  49. ^ "Cunningham's lead in Senate race eroding as GOP coalesces around Tillis". October 28, 2020.
  50. ^ "North Carolina U.S. Senate Election Results". The New York Times. November 3, 2020.
  51. ^ "Cunningham concedes to US Sen. Tillis in North Carolina". Associated Press. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  52. ^ Ignasiak, Darrick (January 22, 2009). "Ex-state senator, Lexington native gets Bronze Star". McClatchy - Tribune Business News. ProQuest 465315328 – via ProQuest. Cunningham said he received the medal for his efforts with the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute contractors who were serving with and accompanying the armed forces. He served as lead investigator in a case that turned into the first court-martial of a contractor since 1968. His work resulted in a comprehensive system for ensuring contractors are held responsible for crimes committed while in Iraq.
  53. ^ Rudin, Ken (March 30, 2010). "Is N.C. Sen. Burr (R) Vulnerable? Depends On Who You Ask". Retrieved January 8, 2021. But the favorite, at least among some Democrats in Washington, seems to be Cal Cunningham, an attorney and former one-term state senator who served in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star.
  54. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham wins Army award". News & Observer. June 11, 2009. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  55. ^ "MacArthur Leadership Awards - Home Page". April 3, 2009. Archived from the original on April 3, 2009. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  56. ^ Cherriece Wright (May 7, 2003). "Jaycees honor five people for service to community". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  57. ^ "People in Business". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  58. ^ a b Buck, Rebecca (October 3, 2020). "Democratic Senate candidate in North Carolina confirms romantic texts with woman who isn't his wife". CNN. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  59. ^ a b Robertson, Gary D. (October 3, 2020). "N. Carolina Senate race upended by sexting, virus diagnosis". Associated Press.
  60. ^ Murphy, Brian (September 29, 2020). "Cunningham says Supreme Court vacancy should wait, but he'd meet with Amy Coney Barrett". News & Observer.
  61. ^ Arkin, James (October 6, 2020). "Cal Cunningham under fire after more texts revealed". Politico. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  62. ^ Copp, Tara; Murphy, Brian; Alexander, Ames (October 7, 2020). "After woman confirms affair, her husband calls on Cunningham to drop out of NC Senate race". News & Observer. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  63. ^ Specht, Paul (October 6, 2020). "Army Reserve investigating Cunningham after woman confirms affair, more texts emerge". Retrieved October 7, 2020.

External links

North Carolina Senate
Preceded by Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 23rd district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from North Carolina
(Class 2)

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This page was last edited on 6 March 2024, at 20:02
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